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Rates of COVID-19 Infection Higher in Blacks, Hispanics

Disparity not explained by underlying medical conditions or where they live or receive care

TUESDAY, Sept. 22, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Black and Hispanic individuals are experiencing an excess burden of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection, according to a study published online Sept. 22 in PLOS Medicine.

Christopher T. Rentsch, Ph.D., from the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, and colleagues used data from 5,834,543 individuals receiving care in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (between Feb. 8 and July 22, 2020) to examine racial and ethnic disparities in patterns of COVID-19 testing (i.e., who received testing and who tested positive) and subsequent mortality.

The researchers found that 254,595 individuals were tested for COVID-19; of these patients, 16,317 tested positive and 1,057 died. Black individuals were more likely to be tested (rate per 1,000 individuals: 60.0) versus Hispanic (52.7) and White individuals (38.6). Individuals from minority backgrounds were more likely to test positive (Black versus White: odds ratio [OR], 1.93; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.85 to 2.01; P < 0.001; Hispanic versus White: OR, 1.84; 95 percent CI, 1.74 to 1.94; P < 0.001). However, 30-day mortality did not differ by race/ethnicity (Black versus White: OR, 0.97; 95 percent CI, 0.80 to 1.17; P = 0.74; Hispanic versus White: OR, 0.99; 95 percent CI, 0.73 to 1.34; P = 0.94). In the Midwest, the disparity between Black and White individuals testing positive for COVID-19 was stronger (OR, 2.66; 95 percent CI, 2.41 to 2.95; P < 0.001) than in the West (OR, 1.24; 95 percent CI, 1.11 to 1.39; P < 0.001). Across region, calendar time, and outbreak pattern, the disparity in testing positive for COVID-19 between Hispanic and White individuals was consistent.

"Our findings highlight the urgent need for improved strategies to contain and prevent further outbreaks in racial and ethnic minority communities," the authors write.

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